about the Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake region of the West Chilcotin,
this summer Wilderness Adventures will include the Alaska Journel
for 2006 since that's where I'll be!.
Wilderness Adventures - July, Week 2/2006
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you
at the bottom of this page. Check out the
of the Day.
we first entered Alaska and at the first gas station we
filled up at a tourist told us that if we didn't see any
other place in Alaska, we had to see Valdez. He's right.
It is by far the prettiest place that we have seen
in Alaska. Soon after we left Copper Center this
morning, the country began changing from swamp spruce
to high green hills, and then mountains. Great, deep canyons
ran down from the mountains and there were glaciers on
nearly every mountain including one that is called a hanging
glacier and seems to defy gravity. Soon there were solid
rock walls forming one side of the road with drilled
blasting holes still clearly visible while on
the other ran the Tsaina River, a strange grey silty river
the color of metal filings. At one point we could see
Worthington Glacier draped over the mountain before us
and running down fairly close to the highway, then turned
a corner overlooking a valley overhung by the sawtoothed
Chugach Range. Fabulous waterfalls from the foot
of glaciers made fantastically steep drops appearing
and disappearing in the thick green underbrush as they
flowed down the mountains in steps. Thompson Pass just
before Valdez is wild and wonderful and Bridal Veil and
Horsetail Falls are must stop photo ops.
We arrived in Valdez early this afternoon. Our first duty
as we rolled into town was to check out our accommodations
for the next couple of days. I was horrified to
see the only three possibilities for which we had information.
All three were the usual gravel pit parking lots with
RV's packed in like sardines. However, I did see a sign
on the road advertising 'No Mosquitoes!'
so we followed the little arrows out to a large spit or
breakwater that had fish packing houses and a very large
RV Park, but this park formed a quadrant with most of
the parking on the outside and only a little in the middle.
As a result, there was lots of open space and since we
got in so early we were able to back onto Prince William
Sound so that all we would hear at night would be
ocean sounds and the deep thrum of the ocean going boats.
The other parks we looked at would be very noisy because
they were all surrounded by roads on at least three sides
so we're pretty darned happy with what we lucked out on.
Unlike Seward, the valley of Valdez is wider as
is Prince William Sound so you don't feel quite so much
like you are sitting in a tight valley right under the
mountains. Valdez is said to be called the little
Switzerland of Alaska and I can certainly see
why. Surrounded by lush green mountains that peak into
snowcapped crags and protective hills, the port doesn't
seem to be very windy at all and the Sound itself is very
calm with few waves although I'm sure that could change
in bad weather. The Sound is that pretty light green of
an ocean inlet fed directly by a glacial river and tonite
we watched a seal floating on his back eating his supper
while his buddies cavorted among a bunch of seagulls.
We toured around the town a bit and discovered it to be
a neat and tidy little place with a population of around
4000. It has an odd hill that's quite high between most
of the town and the Sound so we climbed it and discovered
that it would almost entirely protect the town from
a tsunami similiar to the one that destroyed Old Valdez
in 1964. On Good Friday, the earthquake of 1964
caused an underground landslide in Prince William Sound
that resulted in a huge tsunami. The water, fires and
earthquake completely destroyed the town and the U.S.
Army condemned the townsite. They gave the
townspeople two years to remove or salvage all of their
belongings and move them to the new townsite four miles
to the south along the 'side' of the Sound rather than
at the head of the inlet. Some buildings were fit to be
moved but most were not, which would explain why Valdez
doesn't have much in the way of old historic buildings
even though it's been around since the late 1800's.
We drove down to the site of Old Valdez and about all
that's there are the memorial plaques and a bunch of overgrown
gravel lanes and streets.
Tomorrow we go on a 6.5 hour cruise through the
Sound to look at the Columbia Glacier and see wildlife.
This should be interesting because I don't like boats
at the best of times. I sure don't know about a boat on
the ocean but I've got Gravol and Andy so lets hope all
Just a word of note. I've uploaded two articles today
so you may want to read the one uploaded this morning
North, Then South
we've covered a lot of ground since I last wrote an article
We left Fairbanks to go up the Elliot Highway which eventually
leads to Prudhoe Bay. We'd heard that the gravel section
was a bad place to take an RV so we figured we would go
as far as Livengood until the pavement ended and then
turn down toward Manley. However, we only got about
20 miles up the road and it was all either of us could
The Highway may have been paved but that's about all you
could say about it. It was just ruddy atrocious! The dips
and frost heaves were so bad that I was afraid we were
going to break the RV trailer in half, or bend the hitch
at the very least. Neither of us felt that whatever was
ahead of us was worth damaging the trailer for so we turned
back toward Fairbanks.
Part way back we turned off onto the Steese Highway toward
Circle just to see what condition the highway was in.
As it turned out, the paved section was in excellent condition
and we followed it out nearly to the end of the pavement
to a State Recreational Campground. Along the way we stopped
and gold panned in the dredge wash of Pedro Creek, said
to be one of the richest gold bearing creeks at one time.
We continued on until we could see a few buildings high
up on a hill that belonged to the richest gold mine
in Alaska, called the Alaska Fort Knox, no tours
allowed. Their first pour (separating the gold and pouring
it off into gold bricks) on December 20, 1996 was worth
The country was quite hilly and a very pretty change from
the everpresent black spruce swamps that dominate most
of Alaska's landscape. Just before we reached the campground
we ran through a burn for some miles and up on the hillside
you could see the bright purple of fireweed. It was just
a solid burst of color and the thickest I have ever seen
it. Conditions for its growth in the burn must have been
We found a good campsite at the park that was open and
gravelly surrounded by trees with the river just a short
path away. It provided some open area to keep the bugs
down for the dogs.
We got set up and then decided to see if we could find
some driftwood on the rocky beach formed by the Chatanika
River for a campfire later. The river, which was
really high and muddy made a wide sweep where we did some
gold panning after supper. We found a few tiny
flakes, the weather was perfect, our site very private
and quiet and we both slept better than we had since the
Quartz Creek campsite down on the Kenai Peninsula. It
also refreshed our moods considerably. We have got
to stay out of those sardine can parking lots they call
RV Parks nowdays. It just isn't us!
We left the site in the morning and headed back down the
highway toward Fox and Fairbanks. We stopped at Dredge
#8 at Fox and gave ourselves a little tour through the
whole setup. Neither of us really wanted to do a three
hour guided tour, especially after the tour buses
started showing up. We're tired of people. We
enjoyed going around and reading all the signs and figuring
out how the dredge worked. I would definitely recommend
this tour to everyone because that whole operation was
We decided to go down toward Chena Hotsprings after we
left the dredge but stopped at a spot where the Alaskan
Pipeline comes right out to the road. There's a
writeup there about the 'pigs' they run through the pipeline
along with other information, and of course there was
the everpresent over-priced gift shop. We skedaddled as
soon as the tour buses showed up again.
As we turned down the road toward Chena it started getting
really choppy. I called the owners of the Aurora Hotel
as we drove because I really wanted to see their ice museum
and asked the woman who answered about the condition of
the highway. She said it had really bad frost heaves the
whole way but all you had to do was go really slowly.
Boy, she wasn't kidding! We had 60 miles
to go on that garbage highway and after only 20 miles
I finally told Andy to turn our rig around at the next
wide spot. We just did not need to wreck anything just
because I wanted to see some ice sculptures and since
it was not a circle road, we would have to beat up the
trailer going in and out. As it was, the
next time we stopped and checked the trailer the
dining table had bounced right out of its metal floor
bracket and was leaning against the window. Much
longer and it would have sliced up the screen on the window.
I think that it would probably have been better to pay
for a couple of extra days for the trailer at the park
we were in at Fairbanks, left it there and just taken
the truck over all of these roads. Had we realized the
condition of the highways we would have planned our trip
much differently. Unfortunately, hindsight is always
We drove back to Fairbanks, picked up a saw for cutting
firewood and headed south on the Richardson Highway toward
Valdez. The highway south was surprisingly good and we
really enjoyed the country around Delta Junction. Unfortunately,
we didn't fuel up there so when we arrived in Paxson after
a very long day and both of us exhausted and tired of
being in the truck, all we found there was a sign saying
there was no diesel. Since the place at Paxson was
just too reminiscent of the dueling banjos in 'Deliverance'
we chose to cross the bridge over the Gulkana River and
park in a gravel pit there. Just as we got parked and
began to set up, a wolf meandered past us only a
couple of hundred yards away. Andy dashed out
to get some pictures, but my digital just didn't show
the animal up all that well, but we got one picture that
hopefully might show what it is.
The black flies were really bad right along the river
so the dogs got a short walk and we climbed back into
the trailer for the night. Another quiet night with only
another truck camper for company parked a little ways
away, a great view and the best part was it was
free. You gotta like it!
We chose to stay at Paxson because we wanted to try driving
down the Denali Highway until the pavement ended at about
21 miles, drop the trailer at Tangle Lakes and drive on
the gravel with just the truck. Lack of diesel and
only a half tank left in the truck changed our plans somewhat.
We decided to go with the original plan but instead of
dropping the trailer, we pulled it over gravel to mile
37 to the summit of the pass then turned around.
If you don't do anything else in Alaska, drive the
Denali Highway. It's a must do. The highway crosses
from Paxson on the Richardson Highway over to Cantwell
on the Parks Highway and is about 134 miles long. McLaren
Summit at 4,800 feet is the second highest highway
pass in Alaska and the views are absolutely breathtaking!
From the summit you look directly across the valley to
three large mountains in the Alaska Range that runs adjacent
to the highway and valley. You can look down on another
wide valley broken by criss-crossing braids of water.
This is the headwaters of the mighty Susitna River fed
by three glaciers that you can see snaking down to the
valley floor and the same river that we had ridden on
with Mahay at Talkeetna the week before.
When you first leave Paxson on the Denali Highway you
climb, and climb, and climb. You arrive where
you can look down on little lakes or kettle ponds formed
by glaciers from the last great ice age. This valley and
surrounding hills are covered in low bushes and because
you're above tree line and there are no trees, everything
looks like its covered in a lush green velvet carpet.
Most of the small lakes dotted here and there in the valley
reflecting the landscape had fish in them according to
the MilePost and had the black flies not been so vicious
everytime we stepped out of the pickup, we probably would
have stuck around. I suspect that in August when all the
vegetation is dressed in glorious fall colors, there would
be a lot fewer bugs and it would be a much nicer time
to fish, camp, and hike all the miles and miles of trails
in the alpine country.
So far, the Denali Highway is one of the highlights
of this trip and had the timing been right and
the fuel situation a little better, we would definitely
have gone the whole way to Cantwell and back to wherever
we had dropped the trailer for the day but at least we
got to see what I'm sure is the best part of it.
Since we got back down to Paxson in good time with only
a few things jostled around in the trailer we headed toward
Glennallen. The road started to deteriorate as we dropped
in elevation and back into the black spruce swamps and
we were hitting some pretty good dips and swales by the
time we arrived in Glannallen where we fueled up. We will
be staying the night in Copper Center in a dry park along
the Klutina River where a lot of fishermen are catching
salmon along the shore and on from river boats.
As usual we are parked in a sardine can park but at least
we are on the edge and have the one side to ourselves.
On the other side is a cute little dog that never stops
barking and that I'm reasonably sure I will have to murder
before the night is out. A small bundle of wood
consisting of five skinny pieces just cost me six bucks
and as much as I love a fire, sometimes I get a little
tired of greasing someone else's palm. There just aren't
that many choices for trailer parks in Alaska so you take
what you can get unless you're lucky enough to find a
state park but after dry camping for two nights we needed
some power and water. Tomorrow is Valdez and the parks
down there look really, really scary...
enjoyed nice weather today and a quiet walk in the park.
Literally. We went to Pioneer Park in downtown Fairbanks
to do our own tour and avoid being stuck on a guided one
since we chose not to go to the Eldorado Mine. It was
nice to do our own thing and we spent quite a bit of time
in the Pioneer Air Museum. It was different again from
the one in Anchorage and in Whitehorse, although we skipped
over some of the similiarities because we thought it would
be nice to make it through all of the exhibits before
they shut the doors for the night as they did the last
One very notable exhibit was of a small blue and
pink ultra light aircraft on floats that hung
from the ceiling. That plane was flown by a nine year
old girl who broke the Guinness World of Records for being
the youngest girl to ever fly a plane, if you can call
an ultra light a plane. I know of many pilots that disagree
on that point. In any case, she grew up in a flying family
and now owns her own Cessna which she flies on a regular
We walked around the park a bit and found a place to eat.
We also stopped at a place where we could gold pan.
I only wanted to try it because I wanted someone that
could show us how to gold pan properly because I have
done it but never been taught. The woman good and fast,
knowing exactly what she was doing when she showed me
how to work the pan. Several tiny gold nuggets showed
up within seconds of her sloshing water around in it so
at least I knew there was gold there. I got my gold out
within a few minutes so although I am slow, it showed
me that my technique works fine with little or no loss
of gold. Unfortunately, I didn't leave anything for Andy
so though he patiently washed the remaining sand in the
pan, I had already cleaned him out! There are a
lot of gold bearing creeks and streams in Alaska,
and it's nice to know that we might be panning correctly
and actually get some color. Just have to stop on one,
One thing that really stood out about Fairbanks to both
Andy and I were the flowers. They're everywhere! On every
stump, hanging from every pole, rail or tree available,
Alaskans in Fairbanks fill their flower pots to
overflowing with flowers. The bright splashes
of color are tremendous, and they really are everywhere!
When we went on the riverboat tour yesterday I noticed
as we went downriver that every home had loads of colorful
flowers in every place possible, but especially on top
of fence posts and hanging from fence posts. Even Susan
Butcher's dog yard had blooming flowerpots on every fence
We went past one apartment building today that like most
we passed was no great shakes, but like the others, the
blooms were magnificent! It's obvious in this city not
just the odd apartment dweller here and there gets into
container gardening, but just about everyone does. The
same with all the houses, and the poorer the condition
of the house, the more it was lit up by brightly colored
flowers. Even as famous as Victoria, British Columbia
is for its city in bloom, I don't think it could
compete with Fairbanks, Alaska for sheer determination
to enjoy the short summer season to its fullest.
In any case, we had a relaxing, enjoyable day today and
somehow wasted enough time to actually be too late back
to the trailer to bother making supper. We did go out
with the dogs this evening because we kept hearing what
sounded like firecrackers while we were in the trailer.
Once outside it sounded like it was coming from three
different directions. We walked along the banks of the
Chena River which runs adjacent to the RV park and I finally
told Andy that I thought the sounds about a half mile
away on the other side of heavy undergrowth across the
river in front of us sounded like small arms and
short burst machine gun fire. After listening
for a few minutes we both agreed that was the sound in
front of us, but that it was firecrackers from two different
places behind us. We figured they were doing maneuvers
or shooting over at Fort Wainwright nearby and other people
were taking the opportunity to hide the sound of their
illegal fireworks under the cover of the gunfire.
We started talking to another couple from Minnesota that
were walking the banks of the Chena for the same reason
as we were and we got into a good conversation. All
of a sudden I could hear two hiss/whistles through the
leaves above my head, and River dog looked up as quick
as I did to the birch limbs above us. I was damned
sure I had just heard two bullets go over my head. The
fellow we were talking to seemed to think so too but Andy's
hearing isn't that good so he wasn't sure. We finally
turned away from the river and started walking back to
our respective trailers when that whistle came again and
a dull thunk sound came where something hit either the
truck or trailer near us. River, me and the other couple
all jumped and he said he was sure it was a bullet and
it'd just hit something. Me, I wasn't sticking around.
Andy and I had just turned away from them when there was
another whistle, leaves went 'whoosh' and I'm almost certain
there was the sound of glass or fiberglass tinkling. Andy
didn't think so although he definitely heard the hissing
whistle. We're pretty sure that if they're actually
stray bullets then at that distance there's probably not
much velocity left in them but still, it seems
a little dangerous to me. I can only assume that there's
something causing a richochet at the gun range and the
Fort isn't aware of it. Either way, I may like guns and
hunting, but I'm a pretty safe firearm handler and I wasn't
sticking around in the open for any longer tonite!
One other thing of note. Two days ago the radio said that
sunset is at 12:21 a.m. and sunrise is at 3:24 which means
it doesn't even get close to dark. Know what? That's cool
in anyone's books!
I may not be able to upload anything for the next few
days. We're headed to Manley Hot Springs tomorrow and
I'm not even sure we'll find a gravel pit to park in much
less an RV Park with internet hookup.
You'll probably have noticed that yesterday's news has
been moved to July
Week One because this is the start
of a new week.
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!